24 June 2017

Eritrea: Wild Speculation Packaged As Nuanced Analysis


Writing jointly for Al Jazeera website, Professor Barakat Sultan, Director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Institute; and, Dr Sansom Milton, a senior research fellow at the Doha Institute, offer a number of superfluous conjectures on the abrupt and apparently hasty withdrawal of Qatari troops from the Djibouti-Eritrea border.

The gist of their proposition is that a rather random confluence in time aside, the withdrawal of Qatari troops was imminent, long sought-out and not in any way "associated with the Gulf Crisis". The authors tell us, with a straight face, that the "resultant diplomatic rift and downgrading of the diplomatic relations of both countries (sic?) With Qatar" did not feature in the calculus of the decision to withdraw.

This wild conjecture does not tally with the facts. Indeed, it is clear that the authors are neither privy to an inside track nor familiar with the genesis and dynamics of the Qatari mediation. They lack critical information on key components of the original agreement as well as subsequent progress in its trajectory. They have even failed to check recent documents that are now broadly available in the public domain as the facts below illustrate:

1. As Eritrea underlined in its measured press statement, Qatar has not to date provided Eritrea with full information on the reasons behind its withdrawal of troops. But Qatar had reportedly sent letters prior/on the date of its withdrawal to Djibouti and later to the UN. The contents of the first letter are now in the public domain. In this letter to Djibouti, Qatar explicitly attributes its action to "the evolution of the situation in the Gulf... and to Djibouti's related decision to downgrade its diplomatic ties with Qatar".

2. The authors' presumptuous and unsubstantiated claim of an impasse in the mediation process due to the reluctance of the parties, "especially Eritrea, to heed calls for demarcation" is speculative and patently wrong. Indeed, the authors do not tell us the details of this purported demarcation/mediation decision; when it was made; and how and when it was communicated to the main protagonists.

Furthermore, the authors gratuitously drift to discuss "a geostrategic game of shifting alliances" to bolster and spice up their proposition. Here again, their familiarity with the complex realities and dynamics of the region is too shallow and patchy to merit serious analysis in this brief response. For senior political pundits of their stature, one would have expected meticulous attention to facts and events as well as thorough validation of their conjectures through indispensable interaction with primary sources. Unfortunately, this is sorely lacking in the article in question.

Paulos Netabay


Eritrean News Agency


23 June, 2017


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